The National Police in Malaga have a new ally to help them fight crime on the Costa del Sol in the shape of the iZeta - a 'smart' vehicle loaded with sensors that travels the streets keeping a watchful eye all around it.
Inspector Zeta Cero has shown SUR around the car, a hybrid Toyota Prius. From the outside, almost nothing differentiates it from a normal Zeta, except for its ‘eyes’. On the roof there are two optical devices that scan the environment in real time.
"It analyses all the registration plates it finds," says Cero at the controls of the iZeta. Without the police officer having to do anything, all the number plates of cars in the vicinity appear on a monitor in the centre of the dashboard.
"If there is something we should know, it tells us," he explains. Number plates can be flagged for various reasons - the main one is if they are reported stolen. "They are often parked in remote places, but sometimes we come across them while driving."
The system issues a warning in “thousandths of a second” after scanning the databases of the nationaltraffic authority, DGT, and other police networks, including the blacklist created by the National Police itself. Another alert may indicate a licence plate that does not correspond to the vehicle carrying it.
It is particularly useful if an incident such as a robbery has been reported and a witness is able to provide a registration number. The iZeta can join the hunt and scan heavy traffic or search large car parking areas with ease.
The ‘intelligent’ police car also carries three other cameras. One, located on the dashboard, records everything that happens in front of it. The other does the same from the boot, and the third records the rear seats, where detainees sit.
"It is a very useful tool and one that guarantees the transparency of actions for all parties," says Cero.
In addition to cameras, there are a number of gadgets in the iZeta's glove compartment that take policing to the next level. One of them is a small device, designed to hang from a bulletproof vest, which records audio which is synchronised with the cameras on the dashboard and boot. In this way, everything that happens during a police action is recorded.
There is also a small "portable office" that has a fingerprint reader connected to the police system, as well as a device that scans identity documents.
There are currently three iZetas available in Malaga, although Ministry of the Interior's plan is that, over time, these systems will become the standard.